A beautiful, sweet soul left this life suddenly and tragically in a car accident on September 23. She will never know just how many lives she touched or how much light she brought into this world. But we do.
Danielle Kay Chackel was more than our coworker; she was our friend. For more than 15 years, Danielle smiled, bounced, giggled, and laughed her way through our work days with us. She attended our weddings, babysat our kids, celebrated our milestones, filled our spaces with living plants, and mourned our lost loved ones. She cared deeply for all living things — so much so that she became a devout vegan long before it was a thing. We sometimes gave her a hard time about this (especially when she was gently ushering a spider out the back door or texting us endless videos of unlikely animal friends), but secretly we all admired her for her solid and unwavering beliefs.
She treasured her job, and she adored her Bankruptcy Court family. She was a dedicated public servant and member of the Northern Division’s small Operations Team. She selflessly did more than was asked of her — often with a smile and a wink. In between her routine duties of helping customers at the intake window; court recording for judges Saltzman, Carroll, and Riblet; performing quality-control tasks; docketing; calendaring; and tracking appeals, Danielle planned potlucks and social events for the staff.
Danielle’s kind heart made her the perfect liaison between the volunteer lawyers and pro se litigants during the Bankruptcy Court’s free weekly consumer debt and bankruptcy clinics. For several years, Danielle staffed the Bankruptcy Court’s Resource Center and helped hundreds of people with their questions about bankruptcy forms, courtroom procedure, case information, and informational resources. She was a wonderful listener, and she always knew just what to do to provide the most help to a person in need — even if it was just handing out Kleenex.
Danielle did not want to be the center of attention. She would not like all this fuss over her. She was a quiet person, and she was happy to blend into the background. Taking on certain tasks (court recording, for example) required Danielle to dig deep to find her courage. But she was committed to bettering herself, and when her thirst for knowledge nudged her beyond her comfort zone, her Bankruptcy Court team was always right there to support her and cheer her on. With their help, Danielle found her groove. She found the confidence to push through her uncertainties, and, most importantly, she learned that she would always emerge with just a little more self-assurance. We were very proud of her for that.
There is still so much we haven’t figured out yet — it will take some time to walk through the sorrow of losing our good friend so suddenly. But in the meantime, we know Danielle’s loving spirit is all around us, and we know that Danielle was her happiest when she left this life. So for our sweet, sweet Danielle, we pick ourselves up, and we live on in her bright light. And we will do it with the same grace, joy, and compassion with which Danielle lived her beautiful, abbreviated life.
Danielle’s beloved family held a memorial gathering for her on October 5. Donations can be made in Danielle’s name to a local animal rescue or animal-rights charity.